Friday, February 15, 2013

50 Shades of Orange -OR- That Time I Fed Bananas to the Monks

January 18th, 2013
Ashley here

One of the coolest things about Luang Prabang, Laos is being able to see all the monks walking around town.  There's actually a sign up in the main market area that I saw that says something like- 'You're probably really curious about our monks!  People are always asking...where are they going and what are they doing all the time when they're walking around?  The answer is- they're doing the same things as you!  They're going to school or going to see their family or getting some exercise.  They're normal people just like you!'  Uhhhh yeah, normal people except for the fact that every morning at 5am they walk through the streets in lines and collect their one and only meal of the day from old ladies and random people on the street who go out and feed them every morning.  Totally normal. 



All pictures courtesy of the internet.  Picture me squatting next to that girl with a few bunches of bananas on my lap.

A tiny bit of background: There are at least 30 Buddhist temples (wats) in Luang Prabang and real-life-shaved-headed orange clad monks live in all of them (I think).  Every time we would hear someone talking about the monks, it seemed like they were trying to one-up the last person we heard talking about them with their description of their orange robes.  From poppy to pumpkin, turmeric to tangerine, marigold to saffron.  It was like everyone was practicing for their next poetry slam.  

More like 50 shades of hungry.   HOW DO THEY SURVIVE ON ONE MEAL A DAY???

Anyways I feel like this is going to get really long so let me at least try to cut to the point.  We heard that you could get up at the crack of dawn and join the buddhists in feeding the monks, and Kim was kind of like ehhhh that sounds really cool and we should definitely do it, but I think I'd rather just watch.  And I was kind of like 5 in the morning?  That sounds horrific but I really want to feed some monks so fine ok let's do it.  The next day at 5 in the pitch black morning we got up and started walking to the main street in town to figure out how I could take part in this cool tradition.  I'd done some research the day before online and read that people usually fed the monks rice (oops left our rice cookers at home) or sometimes bananas, and so we went in search of a good deal on bananas at the local fruit and veggie street market.  I got a few bunches of them and we headed out to the street to get situated and wait for the monks to come.  

Once we saw the old ladies sitting on their stools with their big bowls full of rice, I started getting nervous.  I didn't have a stool, I didn't know what to expect, and it seemed like the internet had lied to me about the bananas, because no one else had any.  I stood around with Kim for a bit trying to figure out where I should squat and what was going to happen, and then we saw the first line of monks start walking down the street and I just plonked myself down next to a row of old ladies, set my bananas on my lap, and tried to copy what the ladies on my left were doing.  It was going fine for the first 9 or so monks, but then I realized I was running out of bananas and there were still about a million more monks coming down the line.  At about monk number 16 I was out.  Then I didn't know what to do.  I just stared down at the ground and waited for this first line of monks to pass, then ran across the street to Kim who was standing watching, taking it all in like a normal person.  

I felt like they were probably going..."rice, rice, rice, rice, rice, banana? rice, rice rice." Luckily they're monks so they didn't make fun of me.

After my few minutes of getting to at least attempt to partake in this awesome tradition, I stood with Kim and we watched row after row of monks get their food for the day.  Everyone involved was completely silent and the sun started to come up and it really was an amazing sight to see. 

Ashley

52 comments:

  1. My favorite post yet! I have goosebumps!

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  2. From poppy to pumpkin... Loved this post Ash. I cannot even imagine what that must have been like.

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  3. I get the feeling that when I least expect it, I'll suddenly start thinking, "rice, rice, rice, rice, banana?..., rice, rice..." :)

    I think its cool you got them bananas.

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  4. Love the post Ashley!! Poor monk #16...so close yet so far away from the coveted banana. Say hi to Kimba.

    Wizzy

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  5. Amazing: "It was like everyone was practicing for their next poetry slam."

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